Watered down. My belief that fracking had uncovered a legitimate "bridge fuel" to replace coal is still solid, but diminished. As always there are some detail problems.
But if natural gas is, in fact, cleaner than coal, why would it accelerate climate change in the near-term? The key fact here is that burning coal emits two different types of pollutants. First, there’s carbon dioxide, which traps heat. But dirty coal plants also emit aerosol pollution — sulfates and other particles that stay in the air for a shorter amount of time and cool the planet by reflecting incoming sunlight back into space. These particles are bad for human health and cause problems like acid rain, but they do have a short-term cooling effect. (Since aerosols linger in the atmosphere for a shorter period than carbon dioxide, the warming effect eventually prevails.)Still, it is cheaper and easier to transport, much easier to build plants to burn, and capable of coming online remotely almost instantaneously. These advantages seem sufficient to use NG to replace coal to the maximum extent possible.
Since natural gas is cleaner and emits fewer sulfates, you’d actually get more warming in the short term. Now, since natural gas emits less carbon dioxide, you would get relatively less warming over a longer timeframe, although even then the net climate impact is fairly small. Ultimately, that’s not an argument against natural gas — after all, a slight improvement is still an improvement. Plus, reducing that sulfate pollution would lead to large public-health benefits. But the climate upside, at least, may not be as sweeping as advertised. [More]
But we better still work on adapting to warmer temps and weird rainfall patterns.